Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book 4 - Bound by Donna Jo Napoli - China, Ming Dynasty

Xing Xing is a young woman, an orphan, someone who is really no one. Her father believed in educating his daughters, he refused to have her feet bound, yet his untimely death left her caught in a society which sees these two liberties as huge impediments to the most important thing a young woman can do - get married. Xing Xing's step mother is determined to see her own daughter, Wei Ping, married off and so has bound her feet. Xing Xing must complete the work of both girls as her step sister is in so much pain she cannot walk. Yet we see that this amazing person has no anger or jealousy against her sister or step mother. Her spirit is gentle and loving. Xing Xing is a very memorable character who may be bound to a life of sevitude, bound to be alone and unmarried yet her spirit certainly is unincumbered.

"Xing Xing squatted by the water, silent and unmoving. Her stillness was a prayer"

I really enjoyed the poetry of Napoli's writing. This is a true Cinderella tale with the extremes of self interest and unselfish loving shown fully. Napoli not only draws very vivid characters but also shows the culture of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.

To look inside - Amazon and for a more detailed book review try TeenReads

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book 3 - The life and times of The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson - Des Moines, Iowa, USA

I was looking for some light relief after eathquakes and death of a sibling and this books was billed as "Bryson at his best:laugh out loud" by the Observer. I did laugh out loud a few times I must admit. Bill Bryson recounts episodes from his childhood and at the same time comments on life growing up in Iowa, USA in the 1950's.

"Happily, we were indestructible. We didn't need seat belts, airbags, smoke detectors, bottled water or the Heimlech manoeuvre...We didn't need helmets when we rode our bikes or pads for our knees and elbows when we went skating."

While it is very entertaining in places I fear it will not have huge appeal for teenagers as some of the social commentary is very detailed. The whole idea of this challenge is to find books that my secondary students will enjoy reading.  Where it could be useful is in encouraging students to write memoir. Bill certainly shows us that ordinary life is very entertaining when the stories of childhood are told well and in some cases slightly exaggerated. Bill's mother for example "...would like the record to show... that she is nothing like as bad a cook as her feckless son persists in portraying her in his books." As the final chapter shows sometimes good writing means not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

To look inside the book - Amazon and for a review try the New York Times.

Ebook readers’ bill of rights

I love the Quentin Blake poster of the ‘Rights of the Reader’ – he illustrated a book by the same name written by Daniel Pennac. Now Andy Woodworth and Sarah Houghton-Jan have created the ‘Ebook readers’ bill of rights.

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

* the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
* the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
* the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
* the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book 2 - Finn's Going by Tom Kelly - England

Danny or Finn? That is what the identical twin boys were asked constantly at school. That is what I was left asking at the end of this story. It seems to be told by 10 year old Danny as he is running away from home. Six weeks earlier his twin brother Finn died and the whole family has disintegrated under the weight of their grief. Nothing is the same any more. Danny is leaving so he won't remind his family of their loss any more and to try and cope with his own grief and guilt about his brother's death. His journey takes him back to an island the family visited once on holiday.

This is a first book for Tom Kelly and I like the first person narrative style with lists, chapter headings and use of fonts to illustrate meanings. A book about grieving loss is very intense reading but the final chapters bring realistic resolution to the stroy even though I still cannot work out Danny or Finn. Perhaps that is the way it always is with twins.

Take a closer look at Finn's Going with Amazon.

MORE summer reading

I wonder what IICS could do with our summer reading programme next year? Good on Sprauge School teachers - they seem to have some other reading promotions onYoutube as well. Love the tee-shirts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No better time to be a librarian

ISTE conference next week - amazing, hope everyoen who attends comes away revitalised.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book 1 - Gardens of Water by Alan Drew - Istanbul, Turkey

This is a very intense and rewarding read. Alan Drew creates such a realistic picture of how two families cope in the aftermath of the Marmara Earthquake. Sinan is a Kurd who fled his beloved village in the south east to try to find work and a safe haven for his family, wife Nulifer and daughter Irem and son Ismail. We meet them as the family is about to celebrate Ismail's circumcision ceremony. They have the dilemma about whether to invite their neighbours - an American family Marcus, Susan and their son Dylan. The cultural divide is obvious and is even more intense for Sinan as he blames the American's for his father's murder. As the story unfolds we see that Dylan and Irem already have a friendship developing. Irem is flattered by the attentions of this American boy and is painfully aware of the privileged position her younger brother has in her parents' affections. Then the earthquake hits and everything cahnges for both families. Susan and Ismail are buried beneath the rubble and it is her sacrrifice for Ismail that immediately brings both families together and sets them against each other at the same time.

The themes in the novel are so well explored. Alan Drew skillfully explores the issues of faith, family and traditions. His characters are honestly portrayed. I recommend this novel to high school students.

For other reviews of this novel try The Book Reporter or Amazon
Also Alan Drew has his own website for the novel - Gardens of Water

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Read around the world in 80 books

Trying to get back to regular blogging so I am combining that goal with my goal to read more Young Adult fiction. I am starting with a book set here in Turkey Gardens of Water a first novel for Alan Drew. He was a teacher here in Istanbul at Uskudar American Academy. Alan witnessed the aftermath of the Marmara earthquake (1999) and the devastation it brought to so many. His novel involves two families living on the outskirts of Istanbul. I have jsut started it - so I'll keep you posted.